Irish Cultural Heritage

Ireland | 5 Must Visit OPW Sites

The Office of Public Works is responsible for the care, maintenance, and operation of Ireland’s most important heritage sites.  The list includes historical houses, gardens, historic battle sites and islands of cultural importance.  In total the OPW looks after 780 sites.  All the sites are an integral part of Ireland’s cultural heritage.  The OPW have a duty to conserve the heritage of buildings and monuments in State care while allowing and encouraging the public to visit them.  I’ve been lucky to visit a few of these sites cared for by the OPW and I’m sharing with you 5 of the must see OPW sites.

Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre

Brú na Bóinne is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Co. Meath.  It’s the largest and one of the most important Megalithic sites in Europe, dating to the Neolithic period.  The site consists of three large monuments: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth and 35 smaller mounds.  Newgrange is the best known of the monuments and is thought to be older than the pyramids of Giza, and Stonehenge.  Newgrange is significant for the winter solstice, where the winter sun enters a roof box, and illuminates the passage and chamber.

5 Must Visit OPW Sites

Castletown House

Castletown is the largest and most significant Palladian style country house in Ireland.  The house is set amongst beautiful 18th century parklands in Celbridge, Co.Kildare.  The house was built c.1722 for the speaker of the Irish House of Commons, William Connolly (1662- 1729).  The designs of a number of important architects were used, notably Alessandro Gailiei, Sir Edward Lovett Pearce and later Sir William Chambers.  The entire estate was sold by the Connolly-Carew family in 1965 to a property developer and in 1967 the house and some parkland were purchased by the Hon. Desmond Guinness.  Both Mr Guinness and subsequently the Castletown Foundation, who acquired the house in 1979, devoted considerable effort and resources to maintaining the house and restoring the principal rooms to a high standard.  Castletown was transferred to state care on 1 January 1994.

5 Must Visit OPW Sites


Clonmacnoise is an Early Christian site founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century, on the eastern bank of the River Shannon.  The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th  -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses, and the largest collection of Early Christian graveslabs in Western Europe.  The original high crosses and a selection of graveslabs are on display in the visitor centre.  The long and varied history of Clonmacnoise is recounted in an audiovisual presentation shown in the visitor centre.  There are also exhibitions that deals with the flora, fauna and landscape of the region.

5 Must Visit OPW Sites


The Loughcrew Cairns, also known as the Hills of the Witch, are a group of Neolithic passage tombs dating to 3000 BCE.  The tombs are located on three different hills and Cairn T, one of the largest tombs in the complex, is situated on Cairnbane East.  Inside this tomb lies a cruciform chamber, a corbelled roof and some of the most beautiful examples of Neolithic art in Ireland.  During the Vernal and Autumn Equinox people gather at dawn in Cairn T to watch sunlight enter the chamber and illuminate the inside of the tomb.

5 Must Visit OPW Sites

Casino Marino

The Casino was designed by Sir William Chambers as a pleasure house for James Caulfeild, the 1st Earl of Charlemont.  It is one of the finest 18th century neo-classical buildings in Europe.  The Casino, meaning “small house”, surprisingly contains 16 finely decorated rooms, endlessly rich in subtlety and design.  It is a remarkable building – both in terms of structure and history.

5 Must Visit OPW Sites

Please check the links for dates and times when these sites are open as some of these sites are only open during the summer season.  Have you visited any of these sites?  Which ones would you add to the list?Marteen Lane (4)

The Office of Public Works look after 780 sites around Ireland. These sites are of cultural importance to us. Here are five that I believe you must visit.

42 thoughts on “Ireland | 5 Must Visit OPW Sites”

    1. Danlace Castle is probably under the National Trust in the UK. I haven’t been there but it must be good if it was your number attraction. Yes Kilkenny is so pretty with lots of history which I love 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It is such important works that organisations like OPW do to protect and care for these heritage sites. When traveling, it is always a shame to see historical sites that have been damaged by excavation, tourism or natural elements. Castletown House looks gorgeous and very well maintained. I would love to visit it, along with some of these other sites.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so important the work that they do. Castletown House is amazing. I have pictures of the inside but forgot to take pics of the outside 😊


  2. This is a really interesting post. I hadn’t heard of any of these places before, and it sounds like the OPW do some really important work in protecting and keeping these places open. I would love to check out Brú na Bóinne and Loughcrew Cairns. The neolithic stuff really fascinates me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad there is an organization that focuses on preserving these great heritage sites for future generations. I’d absolutely love to visit Ireland (only been to the cliffs on a layover) to see some of these places–especially Newgrange! Great info for prospective visitors!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hearing of the OPW for the first time. Glad that there is a full fledged organization functioning on preserving the history and heritage. I am planning to go to Ireland soon and making notes or my plans. Looking forward to your next blog post! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list of OPW sites. I know very little about Irland. Will have to visit someday to understand their culture and heritage. It’s good that I came across your post and was introduced to OPW sites.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would definitely love to visit the Loughcrew site. I am fascinated by ancient sites so it would be a nice stop. I really think that Ireland gets too few tourists compared to how many beautiful places it has to offer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You should if you ever get the chance 😊 I should check out the figures for the number of visitors. We get a lot of Americans and British 😊 I wouldn’t like to see our cities getting overwhelmed with tourists like Barcelona and Dubrovnik.


  7. We love history and archaeology, hence found this post and the sites fascinating. What is of special interest is Brú na Bóinne. The site that dates back to the Neolithic age looks really intriguing. It is indeed great to see the site as a silent testimony to the intellect of Man so way back in time.

    Liked by 1 person

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